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Old Gray Advice

During the early part of the 20th century, New York City’s Tin Pan Alley district was the epicenter of American popular music. During its heyday, Tin Pan Alley musicians devised an inexpensive yet effective method to obtain free, expert advice – they played new songs to elderly doormen and solicited their opinions. If the doormen could hum or whistle the tune after hearing it once or twice, then it was deemed suitably catchy for publication. Ultimately, this simple marketing litmus test became known by the derisive term, the “Old Gray Whistle Test” (OGWT), as many of the doormen and other pro bono musical advisors used by Tin Pan Alley musicians had gray hair. The OGWT is an interesting historical anecdote, but what can modern-day entrepreneurs learn from elderly doormen and hackneyed musicians from nearly one hundred years ago?

To Woo Or To War - When Should An Entrepreneur Fight, Flee or Flirt?

“Fight or flight?” Nothing is more elemental to an organism’s survival than knowing when to run and when to defend itself. In which instances should a creature pick a battle and make a stand, and when should it retreat to fight another day? Entrepreneurs often face a similar quandary, with the added wrinkle that sometimes it makes more sense to “flirt” rather than run or fight. In fact, startups, given their limited ability to effectively fight or flee, often must play nice when threatened. As such, rather than deciding between “fight or flight,” the more appropriate question for an entrepreneur is, “When should I fight, flee or flirt?” As with most business dilemmas, there is no dogmatic response that can be uniformly applied to every situation. Each threatening instance must be evaluated in light of your resources, the criticality of the threat and the probability that you could: survive a fight, escape by flight, or establish an ally by flirting. Fortunately, there are two excellent books that address the yin and the yang of this fundamental issue: Sun Zi’s The Art of War and G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa’s The Art of Woo.

The Lemonade Principle – What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Eight-Year-Olds

What motivates busy people to make dangerous u-turns on busy streets to patronize a lemonade stand? Is it simply for the opportunity to sip overly sweet drinks made under questionable health conditions? Doubtful. The psychological rewards received from helping childhood entrepreneurs meet their financial goals more than offset any indigestion customers might suffer from consuming a child’s culinary delights. You would be well served to understand how to engender such exuberant consumer behavior.
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